A view of the National Assembly. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD, Oct 11: A panel of jurists has endorsed the contention of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the National Assembly that the Constitution allows it to summon the Supreme Court registrar for regularisation of annual expenditures incurred on superior courts.

The PAC had invited Senator and veteran lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan, former Senator and senior lawyer S.M. Zafar, former chairman of Senate and prominent lawyer Wasim Sajjad, Supreme Court Bar Association’s President Yasin Azad, Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood and Justice (retd) Shabbar Raza Rizvi to its meeting.

SCBA chief Yasin Azad, Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood and Justice (retd) Shabbar Raza Rizvi attended the meeting presided over by PAC Chairman Nadeem Afzal Gondal here on Thursday, but Mr Ahsan and Mr Sajjad promised to send their written opinion and Mr Zafar expressed inability to attend.

When the forum was opened by the PAC chief, Mr Yasin Azad said there was absolutely no justification for SC’s argument that parliament couldn’t summon its registrar because it would undermine the independence of judiciary.

“How come putting your (Supreme Court’s) annual expenditures on record will have an adverse impact on supremacy of the judiciary. Moreover, I am unable to understand if all other government departments come before the PAC then why not the SC registrar,” the SCBA president said.

Justice (retd) Tariq Mehmood said Article 79 of the Constitution stated that the parliament house was the custodian of both consolidated and public funds. Therefore, the PAC had every right to keep a check on expenditures of the Supreme Court.

He said Rule 203 of the National Assembly categorically underlined that all government departments whose audit was conducted by the auditor general of Pakistan had no option but to appear before the PAC.

Commenting on the full-court sitting of January 7, 2006, in which all 17 judges of the Supreme Court had opposed appearance of the SC registrar before the PAC, Justice Tariq Mehmood said it was a non-binding administrative decision, not a judicial one.

The full-court meeting had argued that since the chief justice had been given complete financial independence under the law, there was no need for its registrar to appear before the PAC.

He said since the Constitution fully supported the PAC in its right to summon the SC registrar, there was no need for the committee to look for a judicial decision on the subject as suggested in the full-court decision.

Justice Shabbar Rizvi said the SC registrar was violating the Constitution by not appearing before the PAC.

He said if the SC was spared then all other government departments and divisions would come up with the same argument.

“It will simply open a Pandora’s box that will have serious repercussions for the PAC,” Justice Rizvi argued.

Emboldened by the favourable opinion of legal experts, members of the PAC made some harsh remarks against the judiciary. Rukhsana Bangash of the PPP said: The Chief Justice should start respecting the PAC if he wanted to bring transparency in the country.

Zahid Hamid of the PML-N said when the PAC talked about calling the SC registrar for regularisation of accounts, “we talk about our legal mandate.”

Yasmin Rehman of the PPP wanted to know about the pending business against the SC in the PAC since 1998 because until the SC registrar appeared before the committee, apex court’s appropriation grants couldn’t be settled.

Hamid Yaar Hiraj of the PML-Q said: “After listening to these legal experts, I am really feeling empowered because they have said what we could not say for so many years about the judiciary.”

The PAC accepted the offer of SBCA president to talk to the chief justice and persuade him to ask the SC registrar to appear before the PAC and avoid a confrontation.

The PAC chairman said the committee would wait for Mr Azad’s response, otherwise it would use its powers to force the SC registrar to appear before it.

Updated Oct 12, 2012 03:07am

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Comments (9) (Closed)

akhter husain
Oct 13, 2012 08:45am
The parliament and judiciary have placed themselves in a tricky position viz-a viz authority of one over the other,without realizing the spirit of philosophy of "Check And Balance",the theme of Democracy.All state organs are supposed to be accountable to people through a system.There is ,probably ,only one way to exempt judiciary from being answerable to parliament is that it is privatized.
Oct 12, 2012 09:56am
Agreed completely with Ishrat Salim, besides people living in glass houses should not throw stones at others.
Muhammad Salim
Oct 12, 2012 07:07pm
Nobody is above the law, if PM can be summoned to the court then why a registrar of SC (who is also a public servant) is not presenting himself in front of the PAC.
Salman Ahmed
Oct 13, 2012 02:33am
What is the purpose of the summon? Whatever they need to know, they should write to the registrar and obtain his response. They are calling just as a show of strength. Why don't they look into the army's expenditure?
Oct 12, 2012 09:37pm
If Supreme Court Registrar do not appear before the PAC, case against him should be registered against Article 6 of the Constitution of Pakistan.
Cyrus Howell
Oct 12, 2012 07:55pm
Is this a waltz or a tango?
Oct 12, 2012 09:27am
Like it or not, Parliament is supreme. However, it is imperative that members of PAC do not create any negative precedent and they must tread carefully. None of their actions should bear echoes of recent tug-of-war between Judiciary and Executive.
Oct 12, 2012 11:38am
I think PAC can call registrar, it works for public behalf and in democracy public has important right of vote
Ishrat salim
Oct 12, 2012 08:13am
This should be a great beginning.....all are equal in the eyes of law.....